Ahead of the New England Patriots’ matchup with the Detroit Lions last season, Patriots coach Bill Belichick provided his weekly scouting report of the opponent, specifically highlighting Lions linebacker Chris Board.
“Board, that’s the best special-teams player we’ll play against all year,” Belichick said. “He’s great. A great player.”
On Friday, the legendary coach and de facto general manager of the Patriots backed up those words, with his team agreeing to a two-year deal with Board, reportedly worth up to $6.7 million. That’s a nice raise for a player the Lions picked up in the second wave of free agency last offseason for $2 million.
After Board spent his first four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, the Lions brought him in, not only for his special-teams prowess, but also for an opportunity to play an expanded role on defense. But, that second part never came to fruition. After averaging 23 defensive snaps in the first three games, Board averaged fewer than seven in the remaining 14 weeks.
Still, he ended up being a key special-teams contributor the team had envisioned, pacing the Lions with 359 snaps on those units. Earlier this month, coordinator Dave Fipp acknowledged it would be difficult to keep all the pieces from last year’s group, particularly with some of the other top veterans, like Josh Woods and C.J. Moore, also hitting free agency.
“I do know, on special teams, the roster changes every year and that’s a part of the deal,” Fipp said at the scouting combine in early March. “That’s part of the challenge is figuring out a way with this group here of how we can make them operate as best we possibly can in these four different phases. It’ll be a new challenge this year regardless of who we get back and who we don’t, but any time you have guys who are productive players and play with a lot of energy and spirit, it’s difficult to lose those types of guys.”